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Sue Fishkoff
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With flurry of new local studies, Jewish communities seeing trends and making changes

Local population studies measure American Jewry

Local | WorldPublished: 15 July 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - The American Jewish community spends a lot of money counting itself.

So does the United States as a whole: The 2010 U.S. Census cost taxpayers $13 billion.

The Jewish community counts its own for much the same reasons: to get a representative picture of the Jewish population, as well as detailed information to assess needs, raise money, plan services and measure the effectiveness of existing programs.

While the era of the national Jewish study appears to be over — there are no plans for continuing the decennial National Jewish Population Survey, which last time around cost $6 million — local Jewish communal leaders are still investing heavily in surveying their own communities.


Beyond canned food drives: Jewish food gardens donate bounty

WorldPublished: 08 July 2011

BERKELEY, Calif. – Tali Weinberg walks along the rows of leafy green vegetables poking out of neatly raised beds of soil at Urban Adamah, a newly launched Jewish garden project in this university town.

“We’re growing chard, kale, lettuce, summer squash, cucumbers, beans, basil, fennel, dill, tatsoi, broccoli, cabbage,” she said, surveying the garden. Later in the summer, they will add peppers, tomatoes and eggplants.

Almost all of it will be donated to two local agencies that feed the poor: a low-income medical clinic and a neighboring church.


Local camps balance safety and fun

Jewish camps review safety measures in wake of Ramah Darom tragedy

Cover Story Published: 01 July 2011

It’s the nightmare of every parent — and every teacher, youth leader, and camp director.

When a child dies in an accident while in someone else’s care, the agonizing questions begin: Could we have done anything different? Were all the proper procedures followed? And above all, how can we keep children safe while still ensuring that they have a fun and meaningful summer?

The Jewish camping community is asking such questions with the death of Andrew Silvershein, 16, of Davie, Fla., who drowned June 19 on a whitewater rafting trip during his first week at Ramah Darom, a Conservative movement summer camp in northern Georgia.


From nut allergies to gluten, Jewish camps and schools struggle with dietary limitations

Cover Story Published: 17 June 2011

No one goes to summer camp for the food. And school lunches? Used to be fried mystery meat and a side of bogus mashed potatoes, if you were lucky.

But that was before the healthy eating movement — and allergies — changed how camps and schools across America think about the food they serve their children.

Dining halls now feature salad bars and fresh produce, even homemade bread. The Reform movement’s Kutz Camp, a leadership camp in Warwick, N.Y., for teenagers, is launching a state-of-the-art dining program this summer that has banned canned vegetables and machine-made drinks and includes a salad bar featuring at least three types of lettuce and 10 vegetarian toppings.


Jewish groups still helping a tsunami-devastated Japan

WorldPublished: 27 May 2011

In northeastern Japan, the area hardest hit by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, a team of Israeli post-trauma experts guided local teachers and officials through their lingering pain.

One kindergarten teacher broke down in tears as she related how another teacher saw the great wall of water approaching her school and tried in vain to save her young pupils. Eight of the children were washed away, along with their valiant teacher.

“People were not aware how much the disaster affected them,” said Shachar Zahavi, the founder and executive director of IsraAid, a Tel Aviv-based nonprofit that is running post-trauma courses in the town of Watari, as well as providing other much-needed material and emotional aid in the region.


Jewish atheists look for their place in Jewish life

Published: 20 May 2011

Jeff Levine has spent 40 years searching for a God he can believe in. He’s finally given up — but he’s not giving up on Judaism.

“I did a lot of studying, and I realized about a year ago that it’s OK to say I’m a Jew — I like everything it stands for, but I don’t like the concept of believing in a deity,” said Levine, 55, a member of a Reform congregation in Los Angeles for the past 25 years.

Levine doesn’t want to abandon religion. While he’s looking into Humanistic Judaism, a stream that disavows divine power, he’s not sure that’s the answer, either.


Documentary recalls the horrors of Ma’alot school massacre

FilmPublished: 06 May 2011

Ma’alot-Tarshiha is a quiet Jewish-Arab city in the Galilee within walking distance of Israel’s border with Lebanon. But 37 years ago, it was the scene of a horrific attack by Palestinian terrorists who took more than 100 students hostage in a school building, killing 22 and gravely wounding 68.

On May 9, the eve of Israel Independence Day, a new documentary about what is known as the Ma’alot Massacre will have its world premiere in a one-night-only screening in 250 theaters nationwide.

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Reform leaders defend Richard Jacobs as critics attack his Israel positions

WorldPublished: 06 May 2011
p>An angry exchange over the Zionist credentials of the incoming president of the Reform movement has intensified and exploded onto the public stage.

The conflict pits the movement’s leadership against a group of dissidents who say they represent a growing number of Reform Jews upset by the movement’s “leftward shift.”

Last week the dissident group, which calls itself Jews Against Divisive Leadership and is led by Washington-area Zionist activist Carol Greenwald, placed an ad in a number of Jewish newspapers criticizing the recent appointment of Rabbi Richard Jacobs as the next president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Greenwald, who is chairman of Holocaust Museum Watch, a group that its website says is “Monitoring the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Failure to Expose Arab Anti-Semitism and to Chronicle its Dangers to World Jewry,” and a board member of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA, also has an Op-Ed in JTA slamming Jacobs. (To read it, go to

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How should Jews respond to bin Laden’s death?

WorldPublished: 06 May 2011

SAN FRANCISCO – When the news of Osama bin Laden’s death at U.S. hands hit the airwaves Sunday, America breathed a collective sigh of relief. Spontaneous celebrations broke out in front of the White House, as crowds gathered to wave the Stars and Stripes and chant their delight.

But how should Jews respond when an evil-doer meets his end?

There is no easy answer, leading rabbis say.

Even asking the question is very Jewish, writes Rabbi Tzvi Freeman on

“It’s so typically Jewish to feel guilty about rejoicing,” he opined.

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Moosewood Cookbook legend Mollie Katzen dishes on her Jewish roots

WorldPublished: 29 April 2011

Cookbook maven Mollie Katzen is in her Berkeley kitchen whipping up a little dinner for her daughter, who is home visiting from college.

“Steamed artichoke and mashed parsnips,” Katzen says, describing the contents of the two pots on the stove. “Last night was eggplant in sesame miso sauce. She’s a real vegetable hound.”

That’s not surprising.

Before Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” before Alice Waters and California Cuisine, there was Katzen, whose 1977 publication of “The Moosewood Cookbook” shifted vegetarian cooking to the forefront of America’s food consciousness.

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